Summary: When our faith is properly anchored in Christ it makes a noticable difference in our lives, qualifies us to be God’s ministers, and brings us God’s salvation.
Americans have a love/hate relationship with faith. One the one hand people in our culture admire people who have a strong faith. Success literature tells us, "If you believe it, you can achieve it." The Robin Williams movie "Jacob the Liar" captures our culture’s fascination with faith. In the movie Robin Williams plays Jakob Heym, a man who’s town in Poland has become a Jewish ghetto run by the Germans during World War II. Called to the commandant’s office one day, Jacob happens to hear a radio broadcast that Soviet allied troops are just 400 kilometers away. When he returns to the ghetto he tells his friend Mischa the good news in order to keep his friend from killing a German officer. News quickly spreads, and soon Jacob is a hero, so to keep up the morale Jacob starts making up stories about how close the allied troops are, and what their plans are. Each step along the way Jacob’s lies become more and more outlandish as he tries to keep people from sinking into total despair, until finally it turns out that all the stories he made up happened to be true, and the allied troops show up to liberate the Polish ghetto.
We love stories like that, where someone believes something that’s not true but their faith ends up making it true. This is why our culture prizes a positive mental attitude so much. Even when I took my kids to Disneyland a few weeks ago, as we watched the fireworks show the narrator told us that when you believe anything’s possible. For us in our culture, belief isn’t so much true or false as much as it’s a creative force.
But people in our culture can also have a disparaging attitude toward faith as well. Just look up the word "faith" in the dictionary and you’ll find it defined as belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. Who wants that? We think of faith as a leap in the dark, as believing something despite all evidence to the contrary. Faith is often thought of as a crutch for the weak minded, a relic from pre-modern life. So people in our culture both love and despise faith.
Today we’re going to talk about the power of faith. You see, whether you love faith or you hate it, you can’t live without it. It’s impossible to live life without exercising faith of some sort, faith in our friends, faith in our spouse, faith in our country’s leaders. Even the most devout atheist or agnostic takes certain things by faith.
And a person’s faith is only as good as the object of that person’s faith. Just ask the families of the 39 members of Heaven’s Gate, the UFO cult that committed a mass suicide here in Southern California as an expression of their misplaced faith. Just ask the people who gathered to see an experienced climber named Evelyn Mooers rappel from a drain pipe grating on the roof of the Mark Twain South County Bank in St. Louis. Evelyn was an experienced climber, so she thought this job would be a breeze. The problem was that the drain pipe grating wasn’t anchored, so while bank officials and friends watched, Evelyn fell to her death. Faith that’s not properly anchored in reality will fail no matter how strong that faith is.
In Romans last week we learned that the proper anchor for our faith is in God’s message about Jesus Christ, what the Bible calls the gospel or the good news. Today as we continue in our series we’re going to look at the power of faith when it’s properly anchored. Specifically we’re going to look at THREE EFFECTS faith in God’s good news has on our lives from Romans 1:8-17.
1. A Powerful Faith Is Noticeable (Romans 1:8-10).
Back when Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome, part of letter writing was saying a brief prayer in the introduction, so that’s just what Paul does. Notice our key word "faith" in v. 8. The word "faith" is going to occur five times as a noun and once as a verb in the section we look at today, so faith is clearly the theme here. In the Bible faith is more than just agreeing that something is true. Of course faith includes mental agreement, but it’s much more than that. In the Bible faith is agreeing that something is true so much that you actually go out on an limb to rely on what you believe to be true. The dictionary definition of the Greek word for faith here is believing to the extent of complete trust and reliance (Louw and Nida 31.85).
When I started as a police chaplain at our local Police Department five years ago they issued me a police uniform and a bullet proof vest. It’s one thing for me to know that the bullet proof vest is lined with Kevlar, a fiber can stop most bullets. But just knowing that isn’t faith; it’s just mental agreement. Genuine faith occurs when I actually strap on the vest and rely on it to protect me from a bullet.